300 technology start ups from 24 African countries applied for this year’s DEMO Africa conference. 50 percent of the total entries fell under the Mobile and Social Media/Computing category, and 20 percent were placed in the Cloud Computing and Enterprise Systems category.
Speaking during a press conference, Mbugua Njihia, the coordinator, DEMO Africa conference said 19 out of the total 40 projects selected to launch on the 24th and 25th of October 2013, at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi are based on the consumer segment.
The projects mostly focused on social media, cloud services, mobile, consumer and enterprise. However Njihia noted a shift towards mobile telephony as a financially viable solution among the entries, as well as the impact of mobile phone penetration within the continent. Harry Hare, the executive producer of DEMO Africa said the conference is not a start up competition; it’s a platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their projects to investors and technology buyers; though most of the project entries are focused to the consumers creating a gap in the enterprise business sector.
Last year, DEMO Africa Alumni raised USD 8 million in terms of capital, partnership and business after pitching their projects to investors. SasaAfrika raised 750,000 Euros and Lipisha raised USD 300,000. Hare said that most of the 2013 DEMO Africa projects are up and running and the owners are looking for funds to elevate these projects to the next level. “I believe this is a sign that Africans view mobile telephony as an opportunity to solve problems for the consumers on the continent in a financially viable way. This mirrors the increase in mobile penetration across Africa and signals the potential for mobile networks to help many on the continent create wealth and play a role in reducing poverty,” said Muchiri Nyaggah, one of the DEMO Africa Judges. Mr. Nyaggah added that the entries demonstrated the increased need for investment in ICT education to ensure the demand created for mobile solutions are not only exploited by firms from other parts of the world but by indigenous innovators as well.
The role of DEMO Africa is however to offer coaching and support to entrepreneurs in redefining their business models. The conference has attracted investors from all over the world though last year, DEMO Africa was faced with a challenge of bring local investors on-board. Hare says most of them focused on traditional investments like real estate and not technology.
What judges were looking for in startup projects
The 2013 DEMO Africa application process took 3 months and a month for adjudication. A total of 12 judges from Sub Saharan Africa participated in the judging process. Out of the 40, South Africa will launch 12 start-ups, Kenya will launch nine while Nigeria and Egypt will launch four and five start-ups respectively. Tanzania had two qualifying start-ups while Ghana, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Uganda and Morocco will each have one project launching at the DEMO Stage.
The judges looked for products that resonate in a few minutes’ entrepreneurs were required to sell their products to an investor in the shortest time possible at the elevator pitch. They focused on solutions that addressed local problems and have a commercial element i.e. how the business model will make money.
Now on its 2nd year, the event has already captured the interest of global giants such as Intel, Microsoft, and Nokia, with the finalists getting a chance to present their ideas to potential investors at the forum. DEMO Africa is the flagship initiative of the Liberating Innovation in Opportunity Nations in Africa (LIONS@frica) Partnership. The DEMO Africa event provides a platform for innovative ideas and local tech start-ups looking for opportunity to nurture their skills and get exposure on the global stage.